Archipielago de Colon (Galapagos Islands)
The Galapagos Islands are a group of volcanic islands on the equator approximately 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador. As the crow flies, the Galapagos Islands are about 900 miles from Panama. We left Panama on May 10th and our first day out, we entered the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), also known as the "doldrums".
The sea is like glass, not a drop of wind, and it is beastly hot. Not even enough wind to fly the spinnaker.
The fishing was great though, and we caught our first mahi-mahi and tuna of the trip. As the winds filled in, unfortunately they were coming from the Southwest -- the direction we were headed. That, along with the Humboldt Current against us, made for a slow passage. About 300 miles out, we encountered a low pressure system that "stalled" over us for two days with 25 knot winds and building seas, which made it impossible to make any southing. But all things pass, and we eventually continued on our way. We crossed the equator with the proper tribute to Neptune and one of the crew is now officially a shellback! (The Captain had already crossed the equator several times before). In 10 days, we made landfall.
Our first port of call was Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island (also known as Wreck Bay). This is a very busy port as the majority of the local excursion boats depart from Wreck Bay. The wildlife is evident upon entering the harbor. Sea lions abound and are very playful, swimming around the boat, even climbing on board the boats with low transoms. The trip ashore is via water taxi. The first order of business after anchoring is to put out plenty of fenders as the water taxis approach your boat bow first at ramming speed! You risk life and limb trying to fend them off.
We found the town very enjoyable, very clean and the people very friendly. The sea lions invade the beaches soaking up the sun. They even wander along the main street, unafraid of cars or people. We explored the island on our own, not a big fan of organized tours which abound here. There were plenty of local markets to reprovision and through the water taxi's we were able to get diesel fuel, although it took four days, a lot of "Si Senors" and multiple jerry cans to get the 100+ gallons we needed to top off the tank.
After about a week, it was time to move on to Isla Isabela. This is the largest of the volcanic islands and is a jumping off point for many cruisers going to the Marquesas. It is approximately 85 miles from San Cristobal Island so we left in the late afternoon for an overnight sail to arrive at first light.
Here we are leaving San Cristobal Island with "Hippocampus", a boat from Norway.
We arrived at Puerto Villamil on Isla Isabela and anchored behind this jetty, which gave us some protection from the ocean swell. The jetty is teaming with birds, especially the blue-footed boobies, which we enjoyed watching as they nose dive from a hundred feet in the air straight into the water to catch fish. On several occasions, we had flamingoes fly by overhead.
We thoroughly enjoyed the quaint town and friendly people. We went to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, explored around the anchorage where we saw the Galapagos penguins, hundreds of marine iguanas, white tipped reef sharks, and even took a "tour" to a volcano (which entailed an hours ride in a rickety pick up truck, then over an hour on horseback, then over an hours hike to get to the top of the crater). This barren but beautiful landscape was well worth the trip.
With the crew well rested, and the boat ready, it was now time to leave the Galapagos and head out on our longest passage yet, approximately 3000 miles to the Marquesas, French Polynesia.....